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10 Steps To A Successful MBA Application

Nupur Gupta of Crack The MBA explains what you need to prioritize as you get your MBA application ready

Tue Aug 18 2020


What should my MBA application timeline look like?

Dear BusinessBecause,

I'm an early career professional and have decided I want to apply to an MBA in two or three years.

The application process seems to have a lot of steps, and can feel overwhelming. My question is, how early do I need to start, and what steps should I prioritize?

The Answer

This week's Applicant Question is answered by Nupur Gupta, founder of Crack The MBA, and president of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). 

There are 10 broad steps that go into preparing MBA applications, and applicants typically take 11 to 12 weeks to complete four or five MBA applications once they have taken the GMAT or GRE.

Please note the timelines stated below represent one potential way to approach your MBA application timeline. 

Please use my guidelines here to inform your view on considerations involved in the process and potential paths you may consider adopting.

Here are the 10 steps to consider as you build your application timeline:

1. Building your profile

This takes place over six to 36 months.

This step includes various aspects that contribute to the strength of your candidacy as an MBA applicant. These include academics, leadership, teamwork, and career progression. 

As an example, this may include your decision to participate in the social impact club at your college. For purposes of business school applications, decisions you make after high school tend to have the greatest relevance. 

This is not to say that your journey before that does not count, but only to say that post high school is generally considered the most important time frame for most applicants. This is the time when you make decisions most actively, as an adult.

2. Test preparation

This takes place over six to 36 months.

With the arms race in test scores intensifying, it has become increasingly important for applicants to demonstrate their academic prowess by excelling in standardized tests such as GMAT and GRE. 

It is common for applicants to need to take the test multiple times. Therefore, it’s imperative to start your test preparation early. This may entail enrollment in a test prep program, which in itself could last for several weeks.

Got a question of your own?


3. Networking

This takes place over six to 96 months.

We’ve listed a broader time range in this area, as we think of this as an ongoing process in your journey. 

For many applicants, it’s not unusual to rely on advice and support from peers in college. Therefore, some of these relationships can go a long way in your MBA application journey.  

This also includes engagement with schools’ events, both virtual and in-person.

4. Establishing career goals

This takes place over six to 60 months.

Like the previous step, career goals can have a broad time range as well. 

For some candidates, their journey is well-defined from the start and they know exactly what direction they want to pursue and that’s where they end up going. 

For others, the career path can meander and entail uncertainty. There’s no one right way to do things. The end goal is to convey a cohesive storyline that makes sense to the reader. 

Even if you did not start out with a set path, you need to make the effort to connect the dots and tell a compelling story.

5. Finding admissions support

This takes place over three to 24 months

If you plan to work with a coach in your MBA application journey, it's a good idea to make this decision early on. 

Quality admissions consultants are in high demand, and deciding early allows you your pick of consultant before they reach their capacity. Moreover, it allows you to benefit from the guidance of a coach for a longer duration, which would allow you to limit missteps along the way.

6. Introspection

This takes place over six to 18 months.

This is one of the most important steps in the application journey. Before you begin to write your resumé and essays and seek recommendations, take some time to consider your experience holistically: who are you, and what will an MBA do for your career?

You can start this on your own or you may start this with guidance from your admissions consultant, should you choose to work with one.

7. Preparing your resume

This takes place over six to 12 months.

This is a one-page document that is submitted as part of your MBA application and people generally need several weeks to iterate and arrive at a level where the resume is submission-worthy. 

Having a basic version of your resume ready can provide you a leg up in networking, as you may need to share the document prior to conversations with students, alumni and admissions officers. 

Read another Applicant Question


8. Writing your essays

This takes place over three to six months. 

Next to tests, this is probably the most time-consuming aspect of your MBA applications. 

The more time you can spend on your essays, the greater the opportunity for you to ensure you submit high quality materials. Having carefully built up your profile and taken time for introspection will make this step flow more smoothly.

9. Sort out your recommendations

This takes place over three to six months.

These can often cause anxiety due to the dependence on a third person. 

Obtaining strong recommendations requires a high level of project and relationship management abilities. 

The sooner you enroll your recommenders into your success, the greater your ability to avoid unpleasant surprises. Most schools ask for recommendations from current supervisor. 

Therefore, starting the process early would also enable you to allow for succession planning within the organization.

10. Filling in your application form

This takes place over one to three months.

Finally, this is the step that candidates generally put off until the end, but would be better completed sooner. 

Some schools have excruciatingly detailed application forms, so completing those early can allow you to focus on other aspects, like your essays.

I hope this timeline helps you in your MBA application journeys. 

If you would like to get your profile evaluated, you can contact Crack The MBA at 

I wish you my very best in your MBA applications. Stay safe and healthy!

Ask an admissions expert a question

Next week you'll have the chance to ask Deirdre Kane, director of MBA admissions at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, anything you want about getting into business school.  d0a3670706d809265ce69e289cd3693e115fc438.jpeg

At Terry, Deirdre oversees recruitment and admission for full-time and dual degree MBA programs.

Before joining Terry in 2011, Deirdre worked on the MBA admissions team at MIT Sloan. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia. 

Got a question you'd love Deirdre to answer? Submit your question